Few trails combine a forest hike with a saltwater beach — plus a panoramic view of the Olympic Mountains. Two that do are Meadowdale Beach Park and Carkeek Park. Each encompasses a long, wooded ravine leading to Puget Sound, where you can then walk the shoreline, beachcomb and picnic if you choose. Both are free to the public.
Meadowdale offers one of the few public saltwater beaches in Snohomish County. Located on Edmonds’ northernmost edge, the 108-acre county park surrounds Lunds Gulch as it descends 425 feet to sea level. You hike through old forest and lush ferns on a well-maintained trail paralleling Lunds Gulch Creek, home to trout and spawning salmon. The trail is 2.5 miles roundtrip.
John Lund first homesteaded this area in 1878. The Meadowdale Country Club eventually acquired and developed it, but closed in the late 1960s. Snohomish County Parks then acquired the land in 1968 to develop a public park with beach access.
As you hike into the ravine from the trailhead, admire enormous, old-growth stumps, some of which host newer yet sizable trees growing atop them. Listen for the sounds of birds and rustles of small wildlife in the bushes. The dirt trail includes some wooden stair steps along the way and so is not handicapped-accessible.
At one mile, you reach a level, grassy park area with a picnic shelter. Continue to the tunnel that lets you pass safely under the railroad tracks along this Puget Sound shoreline. The tunnel pavement may be wet or even somewhat flooded when recent rains have fallen. Wear waterproof footwear or shoes meant to get wet on the beach anyway.
Unlike many Puget Sound beaches, Meadowdale’s shore has large sandy sections as well as rockier areas. Try to go when the tide is out. Then you can walk a half mile in either direction on the beach. Watch for seals, sea lions and lots of sea birds. Pack a picnic to enjoy. Take in a spectacular view of the Olympic Mountains on clear days.
Arrive early because the limited parking lot fills up fast. Street parking is available but obey the “no parking” signs. Meadowdale Beach Park is accessible year-round; the gate at the trailhead parking lot opens at 7 a.m. and closes at dusk. Dogs are welcome on leash. For family or group gatherings, you can reserve the Meadowdale Beach Park picnic shelter by calling 425-745-5111.
Carkeek Park in northwest Seattle’s Broadview neighborhood features a longer ravine-to-beach hike. The 220-acre park is twice the size of Meadowdale and offers a 3.5-mile round-trip hike through its ravine paralleling Piper’s Creek. The park has more than six miles of trails total.
While there are several hiking entry points from the park’s north, east and south sides, take the Eddie McAbee entrance (NW 100th Pl. and 6th Ave. NW.) for the best ravine hike. Carkeek also has a main entrance with a paved road to the picnic areas, playfields and beach access.
Hike down Piper’s Creek Trail, initially a fairly steep gravel/dirt path with four switchbacks, into the ravine. Pause at the historic orchard that was once part of the Piper family homestead, established in the 1880s. The overgrown orchard was rediscovered in 1981 and includes apple, pear and cherry trees — many heirloom varieties. It is tended by Friends of Piper’s Orchard.
As the trail levels out, you follow Piper’s Creek through a mixed coniferous-deciduous forest to a level meadow area. Watch for some of the 100-plus bird species that have been sighted in Carkeek Park, plus occasional river otters and salmon when spawning. Loop trails off the main trail go through wooded and wetland areas. Take Hillside Trail to the South Bluff Trail if you want to venture off the main route. The North Bluff Trail offers an additional loop.
All trails eventually converge at a large picnic, playfield and parking area looking west to Puget Sound and the Olympic Mountains. Kids love the playground structures. Take the high pedestrian bridge over the railroad tracks to reach the beach. Here beachcombers, picnickers and dog walkers enjoy a large sandy stretch of shoreline. Go at low tide to discover various sea life such as starfish and crabs.
Carkeek Park is open daily 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Dogs on leash are allowed. You can reserve a picnic table site for a family or group gathering by phoning 206-684-4081.
Meadowdale Beach Park
6026 156th St. S.W.
Eddie McAbee entrance: Northwest 100th Place & 6th Avenue Northwest
Road entrance: 950 N.W. Carkeek Park Rd.
– By Julie Gangler
Julie Gangler is a freelance writer who has worked as a media relations consultant for the Snohomish County Tourism Bureau. She began her career as a staff writer at Sunset Magazine and later was the Alaska/Northwest correspondent for Travel Agent Magazine.